Chapter XIV: The Many Mansions
It will perhaps appear strange, even contradictory to most of my readers, that the soul, which never for an instant, during its connection with the body, loses consciousness, should upon its final release experience such an effect for a longer or shorter period as determined by necessity. This, however, is the case in the great majority of instances, especially where the dissolution is occasioned by what is called an accident as just described.
I need not here re-discuss the immense loss earth sustains by failing to educate the memory to retain the experiences men and women pass through in the hours of sleep, and thus lose the benefit of the lessons learned in the most valuable half of life. All this I have dealt with in Through the Mists, but I may with advantage pause to consider the reasons for the unconscious interval succeeding the final separation of soul and body.
This decree absolute in the great divorce only differs in one respect from the nightly repetition of falling asleep. In the diurnal experience the soul leaves the body for a longer or shorter period, its return being assured by means of the life-line connecting the two; in the sleep of death this line is permanently broken after the slumber has commenced, and return is thus prevented. Hence death is nothing more than a final sleep in which the soul is no longer recalled from the associations it has been forming during the years of its pilgrimage, which associations have been negligently forgotten or treated as superstitions in the effort for worldly success.
In view of making this statement I have conducted an extended inquiry as to personal experiences in the passing, with the result that only a very small percentage of my friends would describe the process of death as other than falling asleep, and these exceptions one and all speak of the effect as analogous to swooning or fainting. In no single instance have I met with an experience where the separation was accompanied by any peculiarity of a more alarming nature.
If I had been even indifferently successful in indicating the governing principles of life in Paradise in what I have said above, I think it will be clearly recognized that while the transition fails to effect any change in the character of the man, it cannot often be said to deal so leniently with the position he holds. The throwing off of the body marks the Rubicon between the apparent and the real, the profession and possession, the false and the true. Henceforth every man has to be himself, not what he wishes to appear. The true character is no longer concealed by a cloak, but it furnishes the only dress he is permitted to wear; and the station he fills, the employment he follows, as well as the company he keeps, are all determined by the spiritual fitness thus declared. This, in not a few cases, amounts to a complete reversal of the previous order. The wheels of success—oftentimes of misfortune—have to be brought to a stand before they are made to revolve in the contrary, which is the true, direction. It is this stationary moment we are now dealing with in the history of the soul; the moment of inactivity when the false is at an end and the real is coming into action. There is an interval of calm and restful silence that the vibrations of wrong may die away and the true career be started free from any disturbing results. In the region of mechanics this would inevitably be so; so in the higher realm of spirit ‘God giveth His beloved sleep’ for such necessary period as to allow the readjustment consequent upon the crossing from the temporal into the eternal condition.
In the hush of this pause Dandy slept.
Azal’s mission at an end, he was relieved, and over the sleeper’s couch Vaone’s watch was shared by one who had previously known and occasionally befriended the little outcast.
All these changes and arrangements were superintended by Myhanene, and when they were over he turned, placed his arm across my shoulders, and led me towards the terrace.
“Come,” he said. “This duty being accomplished, I am glad of the opportunity of speaking with you again. I need not ask if all goes well.”
“More than well,” I answered; then, catching sight of a sleeper lying upon a couch we were passing, I added, “Pardon me, but surely I know that face.”
“Whence comes our sister?” Myhanene inquired of one of the watchers.
Then I remembered who she was, and my companion, as if divining my thought, asked again:
“And the little one?”
“Is also with us.”
“That is well.”
I wish, with the transcription of these simple words, I had power to convey a suggestion of the music of his voice. So far, in all the records of my intercourse I have tried to represent those I have met as being natural men and women. Perhaps in this I have succeeded too well for many of my readers, who expected to find in everyone in this life an archangel with wings of opalescent splendour and language such as earth ears could not possibly listen to and live. Had I been romancing I might have tried some useless flight in this direction; but this is not my object. I am no poet, not even possessing a desire to aspire to such a claim, therefore I have not turned into paths where I might borrow from the wealth of Milton, Dante, or Homer. Their eagle flights of brilliant imagination would rather confuse than serve my purpose. I only wish to speak of the things I myself have seen, and indicate the nature and mission of those messengers of God with whom I have been privileged to commune. In every instance I have found them to be more like the angel who was revelator to John (fellow-servants and colabourers) than those sketched by Dante or Milton, and as such I desire to present them.
In higher heights than I have reached there may be—must be more glorious beings than I have known, but so far I have not met them, therefore decline to speculate upon their nature and characteristics. Every stage of existence between myself and the Absolute, I have reason to believe, is peopled by beings acclimatized thereto, of which I find the suggestive assurance in Myhanene himself. Did I but know Omra better I am confident he would reveal more in this direction, but I must be content to remain uninformed on this point for the present, and confine my argument to what deduction can be made from my knowledge of Omra’s messenger.
Here, however, we are brought into contact with a personality through which the supra-natural begins to insinuate itself upon our attention, and we find strange combinations and seeming contradictions, occasioning first doubt, then study, before we reach a settled confidence in the new presentment of manhood.
Let me illustrate what I mean from this last rejoinder of his which has led to the present explanation. Few would use such a phrase in the connection it is here employed—it is not the happiest or most relevant to be found, but it is an habitual one on the lips of Myhanene. The soft, musical, almost nonchalant “It is well” is the termination of everything with him with the regularity of an “Amen” to a prayer. But more than this, to those who hear it for the first time, coupled with the sparkling airiness of his bearing and the almost, flippant tone in which it is spoken, it comes with something of a surprise, and one turns to ascertain if the speaker is not void of natural sympathy. To affirm such a thought, however, would be a mistake speedily to be repented of, for before the music of his voice has died away the airy touch of his butterfly’s wing will stir depths within the soul with a power that overawes, and but for the tender firmness of the hand around the shoulder one would draw away from him in reverent obeisance.
“It is well!” The music rolls from the deep undisturbed confidence he has in God. He may not altogether understand, but he knows enough of God to be assured it must be so, and hence he speaks.
In the case before us, however, it was doubly well, for my reader will not have failed to identify the sleeper. Her prayer had been answered. The child was saved from earth.
We had reached the terrace before my companion spoke again.
“Now that you have a longer and better acquaintance with this life,” he began, “I want to know whether it loses any of its charms, wonder, or surprises?”
“It loses nothing,” I replied; “everything increases rather than otherwise.”
“So it is always and with everyone,” he affirmed, gently nodding his head in the reverie absorbing the other part of him I could not understand. “So it will ever continue to be—always more to follow. As God manifest in the Christ was so much more than earth could comprehend, so the God in Heaven will always be so much more than the redeemed can know or understand.”
“I like to hear you speak of God and Christ and love.”
“Do you? Why?”
“I seem to comprehend more of its sweetness and fullness when you are speaking. Sometimes in the lower life I reached out in an endeavour to find it, but as a reality it always evaded me until—”
“Until when, my brother?”
Again his arm crept tenderly across my shoulders, and he drew me closer with the gentle caress of one who would woo life’s sweetest confession; drew me nearer and nearer, but did not speak or otherwise disturb the eloquent silence he so frequently employs more effectively than speech. The answer would come; he knew it better even than myself, and in the meantime nothing was lost. In such interludes, hearts knit and affection tightens its embrace till the soul becomes too full and the lips must speak.
“When I met you,” I replied, and something bowed my head upon his shoulder as if the confession had been one of love. The pressure of his arm was slightly accentuated.
“But if the poor unworthy reflection of His love from myself has been so much to you, what will the fullness of the rapture be when you are able to see Him as He is?”
“I know not. I am only grateful the revelation is withheld until I shall be strong enough to bear it.”
“But you would not delay the fullness of your joy, would you?”
“No! I would neither delay nor hurry it. I simply wish to do my present duty and leave all the rest to Him.”
“That is well; but tell me what you are now doing towards it?”
“At present I am waiting—or rather have been waiting, but first Ladas and then Cushna have pointed me to very congenial work.”
“All employment here is congenial.”
“So they have assured me; but I doubted whether my own choice could be the right one.”
“Such is the law of our lives.”
“And am I really free to join in your ministry to earth?”
“Yes, if you desire it, and I shall be glad to accept your service. But you must first learn something of the nature and scope of the good news we have to declare before you will be able to preach it. The earth ideas of this life are as yet bound in swaddling-bands which only constrain and fetter the soul. We have to proclaim liberty, but it is always a liberty granted and secured by law. This law you must study and understand in such of its bearings as will be most required.”
“Where shall I begin?”
“With the pulling down of the error that this life possesses only two classes of divisions of souls—the saved and the lost; and in its place building up the knowledge that, no matter who or what a man may be, on arrival here he will go to his own place—the place for which he has spiritually prepared himself by his actions and motives, without any other testimony or witness than the evidence written upon his spiritual body.”
“This I have in a measure already studied and learned to understand, but there is at least one subject arising from what you have just said upon which I sadly need to be informed.”
“State the point, and I will try to answer it.”
“Granted that every man must go to his own place, when we consider the almost infinite number of conditions into which humanity must necessarily be divided, where can all the places be found to satisfy the demand?”
“It is a question earth will often ask, and one you must also be prepared to answer. To one whose mind is free from parochial limitations a short and suggestive reply will be sufficient: that however large the demand may be, it cannot exceed the finite, and therefore can be easily provided for in the economy of an infinite God. Few men, however, make any effort to reach a wider circle of thought than the ideas they inherit, in which they understand infinity as unlimited mercy and indulgence towards themselves and an equally unmeasured extent of wrath upon all who differ religiously from them. Justice, righteousness and truth in their essential purity are too high for them to attain to, hence any attempt in that direction is considered to be useless.”
“Earth ideas are a secondary consideration to me for the moment; I am first anxious to know the truth for myself alone. Not that I doubt but I would also understand.”
“And I will gladly do my best to enable you to do so, though I am fully conscious how little that best will be in comparison even with that I know from experience, and I myself have scarcely yet begun to comprehend what the whole truth may be.”
Here he paused as if for the purpose of shaping his further reply. I did not speak, having enough to think of for the time in making sure I understood what had already been said. Presently he resumed:
“I shall find no better introduction to what I have to draw your attention to than the words of the Master to His disciples: ‘In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ It is in those many mansions where the provision we seek is made. Have you ever tried to think what and where these mansions are, and made an effort to estimate the number of them?”
The question came so unexpectedly, and put the hitherto nebulous idea in such a substantial and tangible form that I could only stupidly reply:
“No. I had not thought of it in this way.”
Myhanene smiled. He loves to lay these unsuspected traps, and knows well how to use them to emphasize his teachings.
“I suppose not,” he answered. “There are not many who give much intelligent free consideration to these matters until they arrive here. Now let us proceed gently in our inquiry as to number in the first place. Paul said he at one time ascended into the third Heaven; he also once assured the Ephesians that Christ ‘hath ascended far above all Heavens’; and of God we are told that ‘the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Him.’ We are thus scripturally warranted in using the plural number in speaking of the Heavens, just as Christ spoke of the many mansions. Now, the foundations of part of these mansions, or Heavens, are not so invisible to our friends on earth as is generally believed. I think they estimate the number of stars discernible at about one hundred millions, but of all this number with the added darker bodies remaining invisible, so far as I have learned, those that serve the purpose of preliminary existence, as earth, do not exceed the number of your fingers.”
“Myhanene!” I exclaimed.
“The rest are nuclei for varied grades of spiritual ascent. You have already seen how one class of soul is held bound to the earth, the influence of which attenuates until one is able to break away and seek other conditions?”
“So from the material body of every star does there radiate an attenuated substance from which a seried ascent of spiritual conditions is built up, forming the divinely majestic staircase linking Heaven with Heaven, until the Heaven of Heavens is reached.”
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, I cannot attain to it,” I replied, lost in the magnitude of the conception; “but with such an explanation I can no longer wonder as to the provision for every need.”
“Of course the demand is great, but God is greater; we have always that confidence, though we may not be able to measure and comprehend the details of the requirements.”
“Am I right, then, in surmising that in the intercourse of this life passage from star to star is possible?”
“Not only possible, but absolutely necessary, and is as easily accomplished as that of passing from house to house on earth, to all who are qualified or able to do so. When I return from hence home, I shall take such a course, but you would not be able to follow me, because not yet conditioned to the passage. When you saw my home you did so by means of the power I loaned you for the purpose. I mention this in order to point out how safe the higher planes of life are from lower invasion.”
“Is there such a—may I call it a bridgeless void—between here and earth?”
“Call it an inter-stellar barrier. Yes, you pass across one when returning to earth.”
“Why have I not noticed it?”
“Because the transit is too rapid generally for such an observation. It is accomplished on the flash of a thought to be there, and sight can take no cognizance of the operation.”
“And does the universe exist for the maintenance of ten, twenty, or even fifty such worlds as earth?”
“The universe as you conceive it,” he replied.
“It seems scarcely credible.”
“That is because of man’s unworthy ideas concerning God. Now let us turn the conception round and look at it from Christ’s standpoint for a moment. Here a single soul becomes of much greater intrinsic value than the whole world, and at such a price one marvels at the incomprehensible wealth of God as represented in the produce of earth alone.”
Still I could not escape from the overawing thought, and inquired:
“Is this the measure of God’s ‘so loved’ that all creation should exist for comparatively so few?”
“I did not say all creation, but rather the universe as man conceives it,” he answered.
“But wherein lies the difference?”
He smiled and drew me closer to him, with a pressure of indulgent sympathy.
“If I have already astonished you by what I have said, how shall you be able to understand the truths I am now engaged in studying?”
“Could you not indicate what they are?”
“I will try to do so by illustration. Will you suppose an orange divided into sixteen or more parts?”
“For the purpose of my parable I will ask you to consider that all the stellar universe, as known to earth, is comprised in one of those sections which we will name the White Group, and each of the other divisions is appropriated to Pink, Green, Blue and other Groups, until all the parts of the orange are employed; even then the whole of the systems within the universe, as known to friends in the higher stages we are able to reach, will not be included.”
I did not speak, but lifted my head to gaze at him with unutterable amazement.
“When we have grasped the meaning of this,” he went on, “we shall only be crossing the threshold of the infinite, for beyond this hypothetical orange are numbers of others forming constellations in a grand august system we cannot conceive, in the centre of which, it may be, the throne of the Ineffable will be found.”
“Well might the old patriarch inquire, ‘Who by searching can find out God?’” I exclaimed.
“We shall all find Him,” he answered confidently.
“The most necessary and serviceable question for us to decide is whether we are making the best possible effort to accomplish the purpose.”
“Pardon me if I am wrong,” I humbly ventured, “but does not that sound like predestination?”
“Not the predestination of theology—saving a few and condemning the many; but it is the predestination of God ‘who will have all men to be saved.’ Man can no more escape from that determination than from the omnipresence of God. In the finality God must be all in all, for beside Him there is none other; but within the bounds of the finality there is ample room for the exercise of free-will, also for the punishment of sin and restoration from its effects. Let me illustrate. I imagine a branch line of railway running from a central station to a suburb. A train leaving the terminus has no alternative but to reach the central depot. The only doubt is as to the time the journey will occupy, which has to be largely determined by the officials in charge, who have power to hasten or delay.”
“Suppose there should be an accident?”
“That is impossible upon God’s line of life.”
This was said in one of his soft unanswerable affirmations to which there is no reply.
“But, Myhanene, do you consider how inaccessibly remote you thus place God?”
“I have done no more, my brother, than lend you what assistance I am able for helping you to understand the position God has always occupied. The error was manufactured on earth; I have only done something towards correcting it.”
“But when will the best of us be able to reach Him?”
“That is to be the great employment of eternity, and we shall find that provision is long enough for even the last laggard child to reach his destination. Let us, however, be up and doing, never forgetting the responsibility we are under in relation to delays.”
“The importance of that caution applies to the earth-life; you do not suggest that the danger of delay exists here, do you?”
“Wherever progress is attainable, side by side with it exists the possibility of delay. Never forget that. Of course, the higher we ascend and the more we are transformed into the image of God, the greater will our energy be increased, and the less liable shall we be to tarry by the way. But for the present let me ask you to study life as you will find it in your present home, where the last feeble influence of the earth has but recently snapped, and every soul rejoices in the newly-acquired perfect freedom. You will there find a decided tendency to rest, a wish not to be disturbed, a satisfaction already attained, a pronounced feeling of contentment, and the idea of having reached a Heaven that has no need of improvement. It is this I wish you to guard against, and for which I am glad to have had the opportunity of pointing out the length of the journey lying before us.”
His words threw a lurid light upon that obscure remark of Vaone’s I have already noted. Was he aware of it? I do not know. Myhanene is not so easily understood in all his movements as one might be led to think from first appearances.
“I thank you for that intimation,” I replied, “and will promise to profit by your caution. But, tell me, in speaking of my present residence as being just over the boundary of the earth conditions, do you wish me to understand that it is but the next stage in progress from that through which Ladas has recently conducted me?”
“No. There are many degrees between the two. Ladas and his friends are working for the deliverance of earth-bound souls, whose every faculty and power is given to and held in slavish bondage by the desire still to achieve earthly success or take some cruel revenge. Ladas works to convince all such of the futility of their efforts, to point out the inevitable penalties they incur, and, whenever successful, to conduct the repentant ones—with such assurances of God’s unchanging love as he may be able to give to the place where their purification begins.”
“This is not altogether contrary to the Catholic idea of purgatory.”
“There is a slight resemblance, but a great difference,” he explained. “The error lies in the claim of priestly power to liberate the soul by the instrumentality of the mass, or in other words for a monetary or other consideration which it is not now necessary to tell you is one of the false traditions by which men have been blinded. Still, even that claim is not more God-dishonouring than the rival assumption of consigning all unpardoned sinners to an eternal torment.”
“May I ask for information respecting the other stages in the earth conditions?”
“The whole region is occupied by the vast army of souls who on earth lacked aim, purpose or moral energy. They neither helped nor resisted anything, but simply breathed, ate, slept, and existed. Social, moral, spiritual driftage which were equally objectionable and despised by good and bad from lack of character. Like all other classes, they remain the same here, lying helpless and stagnant between the two active streams of life, and presenting the most difficult problem of regeneration we are called upon to solve. Ignorance and wrongly directed energy are simple cases of spiritual treatment, but in these palsied souls we have first to recover the use of shrunken, withered, and dried-up natural channels before the slightest sign of improvement is visible. It is a work almost like the effort to reanimate an Egyptian mummy, and were failure in any department of our work possible, this is the field where it would be found. This, however, is out of the question, and though results are achieved so slowly, the real danger the condition presents to earth inspires the efforts of all engaged in this part of our ministry.”
“Wherein lies the special danger?” I inquired.
“Stagnation is always a menace to health, and for this reason alone it could not be allowed to remain. But the most serious aspect of such existence is found in the dangerous sympathy such souls form with any to whom they can cling. They are drawn to such as are drifting towards their own conditions like needles to a magnet, and it is in this connection you will experience more trouble than you imagine when your mission to earth commences.”
“Kindly explain to me what you mean.”
“The real danger of opening intercourse between ourselves and earth lies in the almost entire absence of the true Christ spirit in the majority of men. This, as you will well know by this time, establishes a close association with kindred souls from this side, and the active hypocrisies of men make natural draft upon those most like themselves. Our invasion of the mortal sphere with the evidence of immortality has most largely attracted men and women with greater development of curiosity, or desire for loaves and fishes, than spiritual knowledge and life. This inquiry is naturally answered by souls who are themselves ‘of the earth, earthy,’ who in turn prey upon this characterless multitude for such information as may assist to establish a false identity, and thus deceive the inquirers who seek gratification and marvels rather than holiness and God.”
“But cannot this deception be prevented?”
“No! When God opens a door it is opened for all without respect of persons. Whatsoever earth asks for it receives, and if it does not receive the best it is because it asks amiss. In the nature of the case ignorance and deception lie nearest to the earth, and may be reached with greater ease; the higher life needs effort, energy, and sacrifice to attain to, hence few there be who reach it. Still there are a few, and we have to make the best use of these for the present, in the full confidence that righteousness and truth must conquer, and such conquest means the gradual extinction of this lifeless existence lying in what is known as the earth condition. All this will work out more clearly for your understanding by experience. For the present let us make a brief visit to earth, where I will introduce you to him through whom we speak, and give my permission for you to use him under our direction.”